09/11/2014 01:55 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2014

Lalah Hathaway Does the Impossible and So Can You


Lalah Hathaway making the impossible seem easy

I came to this video way later than over two million others. If you want to understand why it got all those hits, move the little counter button up to about 6:10 and just...listen.

Did you hear what that woman just did? Better still, did you see the band react?
That is why she won a Grammy this year: "Best R & B Vocal Performance," to be exact.

What she's doing there, singing two notes at once -- singing chords -- isn't supposed to physically possible. I've read all kinds of articles from vocal coaches and musicians who just can't figure out how she does it.

It's not throat singing. That's a different skill entirely, creating harmonic overtones that shimmer around the note being sung. Hathaway is singing two notes. That's what stumps the pros.

But you also may have noticed how Hathaway just takes it in stride. In fact, she doesn't even sing those chords 'til the very end. A younger, less experienced singer might've hit those notes earlier and often, wringing all of the thrill out of it eventually.

Hathaway saves and savors it with us -- that restraint makes the magic. It's as if she'd said, "Oh, and by the way, let me just say one more thing before we end this little conversation..." And then hit us with a miracle, as if it were just all in a day's work. Wow.

Of course, for her, it's years of practice and performance paying off. But after watching that performance -- and the band's delightful reaction to it -- I realized that it was also a lesson in life.

You see, just as Hathaway did the impossible with ease that night, most of us, sooner or later, reach a stage in our lives when things that used to seem impossible don't seem so tough or such a big bloody deal anymore. We've fought life's dragons and demons often enough to look them in the eye...and yawn.


When my women friends and I are out for a meal or a movie, we find ourselves shaking our heads as we watch and listen to a group of sweet young things still riding the rapids of romance and other "earth shattering" events. They're still white knuckling in, learning the "ropes," getting their "sea legs."

We know, just by listening, what is likely to happen. I have learned never to say this -- my daughter taught me. Even if you know, you must allow the young ones to fall overboard and learn how to swim back to safety on their own.

They won't listen. They shouldn't listen. The outcome may be what the elder knew it would be. But the ordeal will be unique -- the lesson learned, specific to the young one who faces it.

We don't lose the wonder of it all, as we age. Like Hathaway, we just have the "chops" to handle it. Even to see face those rapids with a kind of excitement. As teachable moments, not imminent disasters.

I've been keeping my head above those waves for six decades now, learning all the strokes and how to float, too, now and then. So when adversity rears its ugly head, I just take a deep breath...and sing the life song I've learned almost as masterfully, in my own way, as Hathaway sang hers.

So, the young things at those restaurants think we're just a bunch of old biddies past their prime. We know better. We're at that part of the performance Hathaway reached--that brilliant, breathtaking ending that you can only "do" after years of experience.

Some folks don't have to wait six decades to find that lost "chord." But most do.

Watch Lalah Hathaway do it one more time. And rejoice. That's what you have to look forward to, someday...